How to Pack a Healthy Picnic Lunch

Written By: Gloria Tsang, RD

Title: Founding Registered Dietitian

Alumni: University of British Columbia

Last Updated on:

Summer is here, the weather’s warming up, and everyone’s dying to spend some time outside. But how do you make it through a full day in the great outdoors without resorting to beachside hot dog vendors, an easy bag of chips, or a quick trip to a fast-food joint? A healthy picnic lunch is a great – and surprisingly simple – solution.

Picnic Lunch

Here’s what to pack in a healthy picnic lunch for your family.

This menu is simple and fun – and you can eat the whole thing with your hands.

  1. Sandwiches

    Sandwiches are a picnic staple, but choosing the right kind of sandwich is an important step if you really want to have a healthy picnic.First, make sure to avoid white bread! Choose whole wheat, multi-grain, omega 3, or flax bread with whole grains for a rich source of fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. Or, for a unique twist on a traditional sandwich, use a whole wheat tortilla to make a wrap instead.

    Next, choose the right filling. Processed luncheon meats are high in sodium and fat, so try using leftover chicken breast or salmon instead. Or, go with the kid-favorite peanut butter and jelly. (Just be sure not to overdo the peanut butter, since it’s high in fat: a serving is one level tablespoon, which is about the size of the tip of your thumb.)

  2. Fruit and Veggies and dip

    Fruit and veggie slices are simple to prepare, and are easy to serve at a picnic with choices of dip.

    Start with a good selection of produce that can easily be prepared for dipping: celery and carrot sticks are perfect, as are cherry tomatoes. For fruit options, try grapes, berries, apples, and bananas.

    Low fat sour cream, hummus, and tzatziki are all healthy dip choices for veggies, or try low-fat yogurt for fruit.

  3. Dessert

    If the fruit isn’t enough to satisfy your kids’ sweet tooth, finish off your picnic with some home-made trail mix. Mix nuts, crunchy whole grain cereals, and dried fruits such as raisins, apricots, and prunes, to add some sweet crunch to finish off your meal. Just be sure to keep the portion sizes small – this treat is full of nutrients, but too much can pack on the calories fast.

  4. Drinks

    Water is the best choice for a long day outside, since you’ll want to make sure you keep hydrated without consuming a lot of calories and sugar (like you’d get from juice or pop). For the kids, try milk or soy milk.If you simply must take juice, make sure you limit it to one juice box each, and look for real 100% juice, rather than “fruit drink,” which is loaded with added sugar and artificial ingredients.

The Bottom Line

There you have it: a simple, easy-to-prepare, healthy picnic you can take anywhere – and you don’t even need to bring a knife and fork!

No matter where your summer activities tack you this summer, remember there is always a healthy alternative to the fast-food options that can be so tempting. Plus, a healthy family picnic can be a lot of fun!


healthy snacks, picnic


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